Friday, 18 January 2013


The Ottawa Rideau Canal Skateway has opened! L is going to be so excited. It's a fine time to come visit the Gillespie family with the Canal finally open and Winterlude starting shortly. xoxo

Rideau Canal is the world's largest skating rink. Starting at the base of the copper-peaked Parliament buildings and Chateau Laurier hotel, it then winds through downtown Ottawa, weaving under bridges, alongside parks, and past neighbourhoods of heritage homes, before finally ending at the historic Hartwell Locks. At the Locks, a sign proudly proclaims that skaters have achieved 7.8 km; now they just have to skate all the way back. 

Originally built in 1832 as a supply route between Montreal and Kingston, today the Rideau is the oldest functioning canal in North America. In the summer months, the Rideau Canal is in full operation, with many of the locks still relying on old-fashioned muscle power to guide boats through. In 2007, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its design, construction, and role in Canadian history. Yet, it is in the winter with the commencement of Rideau Canal skating, that it really comes to life when transformed into the world's most famous ice rink. 

The crowd throngs when you start skating the Rideau Canal, and the ice is rough and difficult to manoeuvre. But a few metres in, after the crowd thins out and the Parliament buildings recede into the distance, the ice turns silky smooth, which is the result of nightly flooding and constant maintenance by the National Capital Commission. Along the way, every kilometre or so, pine trees, picnic tables and fire pits pop up like oases, offering rest and shelter from the burn in your legs and wind on your face. Food kiosks resembling log cabins serve apple cider and hot chocolate, hot dogs and poutine. But by far the most popular food item is the beaver tail—a fried dough pastry smothered in your choice of cinnamon, maple butter, chocolate, or garlic and cheese. The smell of deep-fried dough permeates the length of the Canal. 

Once rested and fed, continue onwards, beneath bridges and archways and past the artists selling paintings of Canadian winters. Further on, you will reach Dow's Lake, where the narrow Canal opens up into a windswept tundra of ice and snow, before tucking back into the shelter of trees and working its way towards the locks. 

Despite the length of the Canal, the end comes abruptly, and though your legs are tired, it's sad to see the final marker indicating the end. Time to loop around it, and skate back! 


  1. I AM so excited! Must book my trip!

  2. Very descriptive writing C, luring me into your world beautifully- CD